Wandering Monsters: Scum of the Underearth

I was waiting for this.

I have never really been a fan of drow. To me they have always seemed like evil-elf caricatures: they dress in black, have black skin (sometimes also red eyes), live underground, worship spiders, are adversely affected by the sun (to the point where even their gear gets destroyed when exposed to it), and are pretty much always Chaotic Evil, the most evil-est of alignments.

Really, all they are missing are monocles and mustaches.

Seriously, I could let everything slide except for their alignment. How does any kind of society exist when virtually everyone is Chaotic and Evil? Though it might sound worse, Chaotic Evil is no more evil than the rest of the lot, just the method or limits. Lawful Evil or even Neutral Evil would work just as well.

I am also not a fan of their seemingly random spell-like abilities. Darkness is a no-brainer, and faerie fire and dancing lights I can kind of get behind as they can use them to lure creatures into traps (or scare the ones that know better), but levitate? Know alignment? Where do these come from? Why do all drow know how to do these things? Is it genetics, or are they all forced to learn the exact same magical regiment as they grow up? Why can they only do these things once per day? Do they have multiple internal reservoirs of magic-juice specially partitioned for each power?

I would just make them more like "normal" elves, but with darkvision and better suited for stealth. If they had to have inherent spells, I would take a page from the high elf and let them pick one, perhaps even from a limited list of thematic spells. I guess if you absolutely had to, you could give them spell-like abilities as an optional power.

Even driders do not make sense. If you screw up, Lloth "curses" you by making you tougher, stronger, and--in 3rd Edition, at least--giving you more spell-like abilities? It made so much more sense in 4th Edition when it became a reward, not to mention that it allowed you to include driders with parties of other drow.

If you want driders to be a punishment, then make it suck. Like, you are not some graceful, spider-like creature, but a hideous, barely recognizable mass of elf and spider. Their bodies should be constantly wracked with pain due to their twisted anatomy, and they can recall only flashes of their former lives (in particular the failure that resulted in their new shape). Outcasts from even drow society, they wander the Underdark seeking to inflict torment on others.

Why not give us both?

Like drow, I am not a fan of duergar, for pretty much the same reasons: they are evil dwarves with seemingly random spell-like abilities (though to be fair, I felt that 4th Edition's beard-chucking treatment was about as silly). Boring. Give them a reason to be evil, and if they must have inherent magical powers, they should make sense given the flavor behind them.

I have never used grimlocks outside of the second Age of Worms adventure (spoilers, I guess). As blind humanoids go, while they are not particularly interesting, but aside from that I guess there is not much wrong with them. They are in need of some solid flavor to back them up, because as they are I really cannot see much appeal.


  1. I thought that only the drow nobles could levitate.

    Adverse effects to sunlight are mostly from being accustomed to the underdark and the shock of actual LIGHT to their sensitive eyes. Their gear suffers because it was infused with underdark magic, and the sun drains the magic.

    It should also be noted that the longer you are on the surface, the harder it becomes to levitate until you lose the ability altogether.

  2. I think we all expected Drow would be of the always Chaotic Evil brand, because history. But I'll stick to treating them as mostly Lawful Evil/Neutral. Mafia elfs are more fun than psycho elfs.

    I like the concept of the quills for beards of Duergar, but think it should have stayed as flavour text. Throwing the quills is a bit silly, but if it has to be an ability, retributive damage to melee attackers would be better (e.g. a porcupine's quills).

  3. That is a good point. I think that whenever I use duergar, I will use the retributive damage.

    Drow are lawful evil. Chaotic evil is just plain illogical. When they eliminate a rival, there can be no surviving witnesses. If there are, than they will testify and consequently destroy you.

  4. @Anon-The-First: I have not seen 2nd Edition in some time, and I cannot remember if any drow got that in 3rd Edition (the basic one does not), but the issue of all drow having the exact same things still stands.

    I will note that I do not mind the aversion to sunlight (especially if there was some kind of cursed worked in, like anything they build gets destroyed by it). It is mostly the alignment and seemingly random inherent magic.

    @Svafa: Which is a shame because WotC has a chance to re-envision things, and again I do not think that people like drow because Chaotic Evil or random spell-like abilities.

    @Anon-The-Second: I agree that retributive damage (as a reaction) sounds a lot better than throwing beards. Same for the alignment, though I could also see Neutral Evil working.

  5. Thinking about how certain animals use quills and hair, and at risk of mixing Duergar and Drow imagery...

    I like the image of a Duergar "hissing" by rattling and/or scraping their quills together. I'm thinking something like the sound Goliath tarantulas make with a similar process, only magnified by their size. And then I imagine a hundred of them lined up for battle, and my skin shivers.

  6. Even that sounds better than the duergar we have. :-P

  7. The three of us on this comments thread-same guy.

    I don't mind drow having spell-like abilities, because they all make sense.
    Fairy Fire/Dancing lights is a trick that all drow have, even the commoners. It's used for deception for the most part.
    Darkness is a spell that most soldiers learn, and is an important part of military strategy. (making it close burst 1 in 4e killed it for me - it should be an area burst)
    Only the nobles get levitation, and the ability loses power the longer you are on the surface.
    Know Alignment still doesn't make sense, though.

    Maybe that will help rationalize their spell list.


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